If you're struggling to sleep, you're not alone. One in three Americans report having trouble earning good quality sleep. One solution to this common problem is melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone your brain produces that signals to your body it's time to sleep. When it becomes dark, your body produces more to help your body fall asleep. If you're struggling to fall asleep, taking melatonin supplements can help your body fall asleep faster, improve jet lag symptoms and reduce the effects of circadian rhythm sleep disorders

Before taking any melatonin supplements, it's vital to consult with your primary care physician. You'll also want to be careful when you take melatonin, as it's active in your body for four to five hours. Our guide will highlight what melatonin is, how long it takes to work, who's it best for and should avoid it.

What is melatonin? 

Melatonin is a hormone your brain produces more of when it becomes dark outside. Your brain does this to help with your circadian rhythms so your body aligns with a sleep schedule. It is why having the lights on causes your brain to shut down melatonin production, making it more difficult to fall asleep.  

If you're struggling to sleep, one solution might be to take melatonin supplements. You can find these over the counter. Along with helping you fall asleep, taking melatonin supplements may also benefit children with sleep disorders. Other medical conditions, like asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder can disrupt children's sleep schedule, which is why some health care providers may recommend the use of melatonin to help regulate their sleep schedules. Before giving melatonin to a child, be sure to consult your pediatrician to ensure proper dosage and safety.

Other studies indicate taking melatonin can help manage blood pressure and cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone your body produces, which can lead to weight gain and difficulty sleeping.

How long does it take for melatonin to work?

Psychotherapist Dr. Noah Kass says, "Melatonin typically begins to work within 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your metabolism. This variation is crucial for effectively managing sleep patterns, especially for those with night shifts or irregular work hours. Knowing when to take melatonin before bed is important to achieve the best results."

You'll also want to address individual differences in sensitivity. You'll need to consult your primary care physician or before starting a supplement, as they can recommend doses that align more with your metabolism levels. Or, if you're taking certain medications, like beta-blockers, blood pressure meds or antidepressants, they might recommend another course of action since these medications can interact with melatonin. 

How long does melatonin stay in the body?

According to Kass, "Its effects typically range from four to eight hours, influenced by factors like dosage and whether it's immediate-release or extended-release. This knowledge helps clients plan their sleep more effectively, particularly when they need to adjust for work or travel. Melatonin can help people with primary sleep disorders fall asleep faster."

The half-life of melatonin is 20 to 40 minutes. This means that in this time frame, your body eliminates half of the initial dose. Since you'll feel the effects within the first hour, only take it when you're relaxed and ready for bed. 

Melatonin typically stays in your body for up to four to five hours. With extended-release supplements, it can be up to eight hours. That's why you'll want to plan wisely on when to take it. You'll be able to maximize its use for sleep while not worrying about waking up with the hangover effect. 

Things to consider before taking melatonin

Since melatonin works quickly, you'll want to take it 30 minutes to one hour before bedtime. To help your body go to sleep, you'll want your bedroom dark with no blue light activity. Blue lights from your phone, computer, or TV can trick the brain into thinking it's daylight out, which can curb its production of melatonin. 

If you're new to melatonin, Kass recommends, "Most adults find effective doses between 0.5 and 5 milligrams. The ideal dose remains uncertain, and there's no clear evidence linking dose and response. This highlights the need for individualized dosage and ongoing monitoring."

One way to achieve this is to gauge how you feel in the morning. If you're feeling groggy, consider lowering dosage levels. Alternatively, if you're having trouble falling asleep after taking a lower dose, you might want to ask a medical professional if increasing the dosage is the right action. 

If you're worried about the long-term effects of melatonin, medical findings can help you sleep easily. According to a 2023 study, adverse effects are minimal for those engaging in long-term melatonin therapies. 

When should you take melatonin? 

If you've been struggling to sleep, your first visit should be to your doctor. Sometimes, having trouble sleeping could be the result of another underlying medical condition. Your doctor can recommend melatonin as long as it doesn't interact with other medications you're taking. 

It's also safe for children to take melatonin. Harvard Health states melatonin helps children with neurologic or neurodevelopmental disorders sleep better. However, melatonin works best as part of lifestyle adaptations, such as setting regular sleep schedules, having daily exercise and limiting blue light exposure before bedtime. 

In all instances, you can take melatonin 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime for maximum benefit. 

When to avoid taking melatonin 

While taking melatonin is generally considered safe, you should avoid it if you're engaging in any of the following:

  • Driving or using machinery: Melatonin can make you feel groggy, making it difficult to do functions like driving or operating machinery for work. 
  • You have high blood pressure: Taking melatonin can increase your blood pressure, nullifying the effects of your medications. 
  • You're pregnant: Refrain from taking any melatonin supplements while you're pregnant. Instead, speak with your doctor about other options for helping you sleep. 
  • You're diabetic: Melatonin can increase blood sugar levels, making it unsafe if you have diabetes. 
  • Using central nervous system depressants: Taking melatonin with these drugs could create an even more potent sedative effect. 
  • You're taking seizure threshold-lowering drugs: Melatonin use could increase the risk of seizures
  • You have dementia: There isn't enough information either way on melatonin's effectiveness in people with dementia. That's why a medical professional's expertise can help determine better solutions for sleep management. 

2024-06-17T16:50:33Z dg43tfdfdgfd